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Trials and tribulations of a new schoolteacher.

Byline: Tony Pogson ,

Books about local schools are like the proverbial buses - you wait ages for one and then they come along in twos.

Take Colne Valley High School, for instance.

In May some former teachers brought out Adventure On, to celebrate the school's half century.

Now another ex-teacher, Chris Walsh, has produced his own memories of his blooding in the profession in a nicely titled book When Will They Ever Learn?

Chris arrived in these parts from rural Shropshire in August, 1972 and it must have been a culture shock. Certainly he records his surprise at our green hills and drystone walling where he had been led to expect plain old dark Satanic mills.

Quite a pleasant contrast, with Stockport for instance, where Chris's very first car, an Austin A40, expired on the way here.

In the event, the book takes us along the first faltering steps of a newly trained teacher, from the first interview for a vacancy in the school science department - he narrowly failed but was appointed to fill a second vacancy which had just come up.

You suspect that there is an element of what the old Dragnet programme called "the names have been changed to protect the innocent" for in the book the headmaster is a Mr Rogers - not one of the four known heads of the school given in the previous book, although doubtless anyone in the know can easily decipher who actually was head in 1972.

Also unnamed in the book is the chairman of the governors present at the selection meeting, probably none other than the redoubtable Clr Jessie Smith.

After that there are some memorable and well-defined moments as the new boy finds his feet in this strange territory.

Acquiring a roof over his head sees Chris first run into a splendid Irish Mrs Malaprop of a landlady, vigorous in her campaign to root out "immortality" and any hint of dubious behaviour on her premises.

Later we are treated to a tour of a good selection of the pubs in the Colne Valley and further afield, before Mr Walsh and his drinking colleagues take the logical decision to cut their costs and club together in the cause of finding superior "digs".

There's even an account of Chris's love life with an acquaintanceship with a local girl which went so far and then ran out of passion.

But the main story, of course, is the triumphs mixed with embarrassments in the classroom battlefield, the unequal struggle between tyro teacher and pupils who instinctively seem to know all about exploiting weakness and hesitancy.

Chris records well-meaning advice from older hands to begin with a blistering approach to discipline to cow the trouble-makers - and we have all probably experienced teachers taking this hard line.

A grave temptation, you might think, when taking a different approach, Chris records being conned into allowing a form disco which gets out of hand, or is faced with a practical science lesson in the open air when slimy creatures become missiles.

But gradually, of course, a mixture of experience and growing cunning enables the young teacher to take command and even attract a certain kind of affection from the pupils.

So that eventually, when Chris made the decision to move from teaching into the careers service, it is with a certain amount of regret on his own part as well as from his young charges.

You wonder who has done the most of the learning, mentioned in that title, that quote from a protest song.

* When Will They Ever Learn? by Chris Walsh is published by UPSO at pounds 8.99. See the website www.upso.co.uk

The previous book, Adventure On, Celebrating 50 years of Colne Valley High School 1956-2006, printed by The Amadeus Press, Cleckheaton, is available from Charlie Adamson on 663628 or Suzanne Nicholas on 359093. Price is pounds 7, plus pounds 1.50 postage
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 31, 2006
Words:651
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